In our small Indiana town, we have one grocery store. One of my goals upon arriving here was to win over the clerks of this store. In the six years we have lived here, we have gotten to know our neighbors, the librarian, even the post office employees and yet I have barely been able to induce an occasional smile from the vanguards of produce with whom I interact several times a week. Only a handful of employees work there and they seem to be divided into two distinct camps. If you frequent our grocery establishment during evening or weekends, there are one or two younger cashiers and a bus boy waiting to ring you up. While not what I would call “socially inclined,” they seem like veritable Chatty Cathies compared with the stone-faced entourage of the early morning and afternoon hours. I am sure that I have not helped my cause by often bringing all four kids, dirty- faced and loud, sometimes in our beleaguered wagon, sometimes on foot. (Once I brought in not only our own children but a miscellaneous collection of neighborhood kids as well. This resulted in our being “escorted” throughout the store by a suspicious cashier.)
A few days ago, everything changed. I had a hankering for potato chips and French onion dip and stopped in on my way home to grab the dip. As I approached the cash register I noticed one of the young cashiers showing off a large and obviously newly acquired tattoo on the back of her neck. As I rolled my eyes at the follies of youth, I noticed one of the frozen chosen casting a similar glance. We caught one another’s eye and smiled. Just like that, I was in! She rang up the chip dip, all warmth and friendliness and we exchanged some sentiment regarding the impulsive nature of the young. I realized as I was leaving the store I had firmly planted my flag in the older generation’s camp.
Living in a college setting, I have transitioned from hip younger wife with a pierced belly button and discreet tattoo herself (if you tell my daughter about either of these, I will flatly deny it) to big sister figure to “young” aunt. I know the day is coming when some foolhardy girl will dare to say I have been “like a mother” to her. It creates a strange sensation as time marches on (usually on your face and midsection) and yet a large percentage of the population seems to remain the same age. I would be lying if I said that there weren’t times when I wanted to strangle these flesh faced young beauties with my support pantyhose (okay maybe not strangle them but at least use the support hose as a handy blindfold for my husband on occasion). I rarely find myself truly envying their youth (though I would take their pre-stretch marked abs any day of the week). Turning 30 and putting the turbulence of my twenties behind me was one of the happiest milestones of my life. What I resent is the assumption that I resent them or, heaven help us, wish I could go back and relive those days. Why is it so hard for each generation to appreciate the other’s perspective?
Perhaps even one day I will stand scowling at a harried mother of four with a wagon full of dirty-faced kids. I hope not. But walking out of the store, I held my head high and felt like proclaiming to the world “Yes, I have just purchased chip dip which has approximately 5 grams of fat per serving. And yes, this dip will immediately settle in the nether regions of my thighs and take at least 4500 crunches to remove (like that’s going to happen). I may be 30ish, and I may weigh more than I care to admit at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, but I know better than to let some body-pierced goon come near my neck with a giant needle and ink that does not wash off with soap and water!”